8 December 2020: Update from NACCCOM: We are writing to you as individuals or organisations that signed the joint letter to the Prime Minister against evictions from asylum accommodation which was sent in October.
Since then, a response has been received by both Chris Philp, Immigration Minister, and Kelly Tolhust, Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing. Please click on the hyperlinks to see the letters directly.
The lead signatories for the initial joint letter responded directly to both of the Ministers, reiterating key asks in light of the second national lockdown in England, court proceedings which are stopping evictions from asylum accommodation and continued concerns about gaps in funding and support for people with NRPF.
Going forward, please see here for further actions you can take and thank you again for your support and engagement with this campaign.
Lucy Smith, Policy and Campaigns Coordinator NACCOM Network
The response basically says that those without status who are deemed homeless and vulnerable will be housed, but the others should return to the country from which they came … and this at the time of Covid-19.
QARN is a signatory to the campaign for Indefinite Leave to Remain to be granted to those who are undocumented or in the legal process http://statusnow4all.org
Original call: 1 October 2020 Dear Prime Minister,
CC: Home Secretary; Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government; First Minister of Scotland; First Minister of Wales
We write with deep concern as a collective of migrants’ rights organisations and individuals affected by the decision to re-commence evictions of people who live in asylum accommodation.
Evictions into homelessness at any time are unacceptable. At this time, as the UK returns to Covid-19 alert level 4, the risks to people affected by this decision are unacceptably high. It has been clearly evidenced that people from Black and Ethnic Minority Communities, including people facing eviction from asylum accommodation, face a significantly higher risk of poor clinical outcomes if exposed to the virus (1).
We therefore ask that you immediately reverse this decision so as to prevent people who have been refused asylum becoming homeless and destitute, and to protect the health and safety of both individuals and the general public.
In March 2020, the UK Government and devolved governments took sensible decisions that protected people seeking asylum, people at risk of homelessness with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and wider public health. These measures included the suspension of evictions from asylum accommodation and the provision of accommodation to everyone experiencing homelessness, regardless of their immigration status, through the ‘Everyone In’ directive and equivalent initiatives by devolved governments. This protected many people when they needed it most and was a welcome, life-saving measure to individual and public safety. However, since the 15th September, people who have been refused asylum in England have begun to receive notices to leave their accommodation, with plans to restart evictions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at a later date.
As these temporary initiatives come to an end, the likelihood of increased destitution and homelessness amongst those who are most vulnerable is heightened. This can and must be prevented. We support the UK Government’s aim to eradicate rough sleeping in this Parliament; however it is clear that this cannot be achieved if evictions from asylum accommodation proceed in this way, and without an end to NRPF conditions which stop Local Authorities from being able to provide support to everyone who needs it.
Thousands of people seeking asylum who now face eviction typically have no source of alternative income or savings. Once made homeless by the inhumane NRPF conditions, they will rely on charities or local people in the communities for support. Charities supporting people who are experiencing homelessness have had to radically rethink how they provide safe accommodation, and local conditions mean that accommodation providers have significantly less capacity and serious concerns about their ability to support those most in need. Moreover, the independent legal advice that people who have been refused asylum need to consider their options to challenge the decision and/or access assisted voluntary return is either unavailable or acutely oversubscribed.
On the basis of this information, we ask that you:
1. Immediately halt the evictions of people who have been refused asylum.
2. Place a fully funded duty on Local Authorities to accommodate people with NRPF conditions.
We are eager to speak with you and your Ministers to discuss in more depth the issues we have raised.
(1 For reference, see: Migration Exchange COVID-19 Impact Assessment Framework and Local Authority Responses to people with NRPF during the pandemic.)
Please do not hesitate to contact us.
Asylum Matters (Paul Hook, Project Director)
Migrants’ Rights Network (Dorian Leatham, Interim CEO)
NACCOM (Renae Mann, National Director) and the undersigned
In September we launched our #StopAsylumEvictions campaign, calling on the Home Office to halt their plans to evict thousands of people into homelessness during the Covid-19 pandemic. Below, we update you on the campaign – where are we now, and what still needs to be done.
From March until September of this year, evictions were paused from Government-funded asylum accommodation for people who have sought asylum but have received a negative decision from the Home Office on their claim. This was a welcome decision, preventing homelessness in the early stages of an unprecedented public health emergency. However, in September the Home Office reversed that decision and began evicting people into homelessness, before a High Court order in November, which came the same week that England re-entered a second national lockdown, re-instated the pause.
Renae Mann, NACCOM’s National Director, writes;
The decision to restart evictions from asylum accommodation in September created untold stress and fear for people at the sharpest end of the hostile environment. As the Home Office has refused to suspend No Recourse to Public Funds conditions during the pandemic and funding for Local Authorities to accommodate people who are not usually eligible has remained extremely limited, street homelessness is a very real prospect. We know what this means in normal times, but in a pandemic in the middle of winter, the stakes could not be higher. The decision to restart evictions sits squarely outside everything else the government is doing to try and keep everyone safe from Covid-19.
It is profoundly unreasonable to think that the voluntary sector and Local Authorities could meet people’s needs and fix the problems that the Home Office has created with their business-as-usual approach to evictions. The charities in our network are already severely stretched due to the pressures of responding to Covid-19, with most night shelters having to close completely. There was never enough capacity to meet the need before the pandemic – now the safety net is hanging by a thread.
Whilst we welcome this latest pause in evictions, the Home Office must urgently reflect on their damaging and reckless approach and ensure that no-one faces eviction into homelessness during a resurging pandemic.
Since the launch of the #StopAsylumEvictions campaign, many members, partners organisations, individuals, councils, faith leaders and parliamentarians have shown their solidarity and support for people at risk of homelessness. Some highlights include:
- The joint letter sent in October to the Prime Minister has resulted in dialogue with both the Home Office and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), with responses received from Chris Philp and Kelly Tolhurst.
- The letter sent from faith leaders to the Home Office also resulted in a response.
- Parliamentary scrutiny on cessations and consultation with relevant bodies has continued at a pace, with representations from parliamentarians such as Stuart McDonald, Rebecca Long Bailey, Lord Boateng, Olivia Blake, Neil Coyle and Afzal Khan.
- Local Authorities including Glasgow City Council and Leeds City Councilspoke out against the decision to restart evictions.
We commend all these actions, and the wider support people have shown for the campaign, particularly through our Day of Action against asylum evictions, that collectively have helped hold the Home Office to account.
It is now more vital than ever that this pressure is maintained, to ensure the risks faced by people being evicted into destitution are communicated in no uncertain terms to the Home Office so that no one faces destitution and homelessness in the pandemic.
What needs to happen now
As England exits lockdown on the 2nd December, the Home Office must:
- Retain the pause on evictions for people who have been refused asylum whilst COVID-19 remains a threat. People in asylum accommodation must be provided with adequate advice and support to help them progress their legal case and make informed choices for their future. No-one should have their financial support or accommodation withdrawn until they have been able to access alternative provision;
- Suspend No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) and work with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and relevant housing departments for constituent nations of the UK to provide adequate funding and clear guidance for local authorities, so they are able to fully support everyone at risk of homelessness in their communities.